Evolving the guild to enhance social gameplay

I want to talk a bit about guilds and how they enhance or impede social interactions in MMOs.

How guilds enhance social interactions
When I first started playing WoW it was with my husband and a real life friend of his. Through that friend we discovered other real life friends. Then, after a while, we joined a guild. That guild was the Knights Who Say Ni. When that guild stopped raiding, I moved to Sanctity, which merged with Forgotten Heroes. From Forgotten Heroes, those of us who wanted a different type of raiding formed Dreamstate. Dreamstate has members from all of the guilds that came before it. The reason I have played WoW for 8+ years is not the game, its the people I play with.

What the guild as a structure does is enable you to meet new people in a safe(r) environment. It normally has some kind of social norms and boundaries. It makes communication manageable. It makes people feel like they have somewhere to belong.

The problem
For the longest time, I didn’t think there was a problem. There is, however. Human social interactions are highly complex. The guild is singular in all its aspects – one identity, one set of norms. Often, except in very large guilds, there is also only one set of activities.

Say you are in a raiding guild, and you want to PvP. You can PuG, sure, but its hard. The best way to raid or do rated PvP is with a guild. The problem: I can only join one guild. I could use another character to PvP and join another guild with that character. This has its own complexities to it. Will either guild understand my splitting my focus? Will I be able to manage two characters? Will I create bad feeling in one or the other guild if they feel I am not dedicating myself enough to their guild?

Enter Guild Wars 2
Guild Wars 2 took guilds in a different direction. You can join multiple guilds. However, you can only represent one. What this tends to mean in practice is that you are in much the same situation. It is a bit easier to be a part of more than one guild, but most guilds want you to represent them and gain rewards for them. If I decided to join another guild as well as my current one, would they understand? It resolves the maintaining two characters issue, but not the social ones.

Wildstar
Wildstar is planning a similar compromise. There will be traditional guilds, but also Circles. Circles are groups of people who ally for a specific reason. So if you are in a friendly guild but want to PvP, you could join a PvP Circle. This definitely helps the issues I’ve described. However, the Circles are still de-valued. You, by default, belong to your guild and this remains singular. The Circle is no more than a glorified friends list with a chat function. Due to the primary, singular nature of the guild I suspect there will still be some expectation that your loyalty resides there. This isn’t how interactions work in reality. It is, however, the best solution I am aware of short of letting people join multiple guilds.

What next?
Someone needs to sit back and take a look at how guilds work in MMOs. All of the above examples continue the propriety nature of guilds. You join a group, you belong, you contribute. If you join another guild via some other route, you are somehow taking away from the main guild.

There are three purposes that guilds meet – social connections, communication and organisation. What if you could simply join multiple guilds, each of which would have equal standing? You could access the calendar of your PvP and your PvE guild.

Simply changing the name and some features of guilds wouldn’t be enough, however. Even if the interaction changed, players may not. Whilst I don’t believe we can gain such change without removing the systematic singularity most games have ingrained within them, the games are not alone in their responsibilities. Players also need to think about this and what they expect from their fellow guild/group/circle members. Think about real life and remember you have more than one friend – would you expect them to prioritise you over their other friends? Establish what you believe are the commitments your guild members are expected to make and don’t be offended if they do other things outside of those. Maintain those social links because those are key to your gameplay experience.

Finding the right guild for you: approaches to WoW

I got the following comment from Warrior Warcraft on the post I made about Embracing Changing Rosters.  I started writing a response and then thought this was really a whole post.  Its definitely a related issue.

Changing rosters is also a little bit like the personalities of server/realms too. Sometimes you have WoW realms that are full of jerks that think they deserve special treatment just because they are there, and others you find with an enormous amount of high skill players or a vast number of newbies. Neither are really good for the other.

I suppose this is all pretty much like the real world though. At work you constantly deal with the inept whom see to make fast advancement and exude with arrogance and then you have the hard worker with their head down. You have the slackers, the loud mouths and the know-it-alls mixed in with the skilled and the introverts. I guess that is what makes life uniques and sometimes challenging to your sanity!

What does WoW mean to you?
At some point in WoW, in particular if you start raiding, you need to think about what WoW means to you and what you will and won’t accept in order to meet goals.  This will help you find the right guild for you and be happy in that guild.  I’m going to approach this mainly from a raiding PoV although I expect team PvP has similar issues.  Start by answering three main questions:

  • What do you want to achieve in WoW?
  • What are you able to give in order to reach those goals?
  • What are you willing to accept in order to reach those goals?

Now I would give the following answers:

  • I would like to clear all raid content quickly and easily and get the meta achievements.
  • I can only raid after my daughter has gone to bed.  I cannot raid more than 3/4 nights a week.  I also need to sleep.
  • I want to raid only with people I like and who are skilled raiders.

Now, those answers are completely unrealistic in combination.  There may be a few very rare guilds that can give you all of those things, but its highly unlikely.  So now to the compromise parts.

  • I am willing to accept I won’t clear all the raid content quickly and easily and that I might have to get meta’s once the tier of raiding is out of date.  I am in no rush to complete content.  I don’t really like Hard Modes enough to slave away on them at the expense of other things.  I do really want the achievements still.
  • I can’t compromise here.  Its too important.
  • I would rather raid and have fun than progress quickly.  I am willing to accept working with newer raiders or less skilled raiders in order to make improvements.  I don’t expect more from other people than I am able to give myself.

Those conclusions took time to come to.  I spent a lot of time just accepting things I didn’t like before I realised this was ruining the game for me.  Answering those questions realistically is hard but if you can do it then that should lead you to the right raiding guild for you.

Fun with friends vs Competitive sport
I think these are the two main ways you can approach WoW.  I use the first approach.  I want to enjoy the game with friends and the people I play with are what the game is about for me.  If I am unhappy with them, I am unhappy with the game.  In this case you should find a guild where you are happy and make those new friends.

You could also choose to approach WoW as a competitive sport.  In this case the goals are more important than the experience.  You want to be the best you can be, given the limitations of what you can give.  In this case you should find a guild that has the best progress you can get for your own skill/contribution.  You can’t expect to be doing world firsts if you stand in fire all the time or only raid once a week, so you need to be honest with yourself.  But you should be able to find a happy fit.

Either way, you have to be prepared to be realistic and make compromises.  Neither type of raiding guild wants to raid with people who can’t be realistic.  The progress guilds don’t want to carry you and the friendly guilds don’t want to change the way they raid to suit you.  The best guilds are comfortable in who they are.

WoW is not a job
WoW is a sport, a game, a hobby, a social club, a drink with friends in a worldwide bar.  WoW is never a job.  I enjoy my job.  But if I didn’t need to work to live, I wouldn’t.  You accept when you go to work every day there will be aspects of your job you don’t like just as Warcraft Warrior says above.  Thats the compromise you make in order to make money to live.  Like WoW, you have to decide what level of compromise you are willing to make for what reward.  How many hours will you work for what pay?  How much enjoyment do you expect to make your job tolerable before you move on?  But ultimately you accept the compromises of a job because you must have a job.  You could easily stop playing WoW.  Or stop raiding.  You can opt out.

Whatever your approach to WoW you should be getting enjoyment from what you do in the game.  If you are not then you’re doing it wrong.  WoW is an optional extra in your life.  Answer the questions above and identify your compromises and you should be able to find that enjoyment.  If you can’t then WoW will feel like a chore.

Embracing Changing Rosters

This post has been hanging around in my draft posts list for a while, but two recent posts I saw made me think of it again.

Its a fact of every guild.  People come and go.  I doubt very much there are many guilds around who raid with the same roster they raided with in vanilla.  But even the closest 10 man guild made of real life friends is going to experience change over time as factors in no way related to the game have an impact.  WoW is on its fourth expansion and is over 6 years old.  Thats a long time for people to commit to a raiding team.  Its longer than some marriages!

Community burnout
Keeva at Tree Bark Jacket wrote a very good post about the difficulty in finding a group of people to raid with.   I think she fairly well sums up what a lot of people are saying about various aspects of the game right now.  Whats wrong when people are dissatisfied is very often not the game, its the people playing it.  When it comes to raiding, you need a group of people in order to succeed.  You can either pick those people at random each time, which often leads to problems because the attitudes and level of ability of those players will vary widely, or you can raid with a guild.

That guild, however, is not solving the problems for many people.  Keeva says:

I don’t think it’s much to ask really – to want to play with people who have the same goals and ideals. But it seems that finding a group is almost impossible, and you are forced to put up with stuff that irks you on a daily basis, because 25man raiders are so thin on the ground that you take what you can get. The solid player who is a jerk. The nice player who is a bit subpar. The hardcore progression player who is super keen but constantly moans. The person who wastes our time, but we can’t afford to lose his DPS. The guy who’s obsessed with loot and sulks if he doesn’t get what he wants. The one who has been around for ages and thinks he should get special treatment. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the raider grab-bag.

I’ve been in guilds where I’ve accepted raiding with people I don’t like just in order to raid.  I can think of people who fit into most of Keeva’s categories over the years.  In TBC in order to progress you needed 25 people to raid and you had to accept the people you didn’t like in order to raid.  In Wrath I went through something of a transition from a guild where that was the case, to a guild where we didn’t accept that.  Dreamstate was founded on the ideal of raiding being an enjoyable activity – and that meant being with people you liked.  Now I think we are a mixed bag of personalities and probably everyone doesn’t like everyone else, but we have more fun together than I’ve had in any guild since Kara times.

Accepting the inevitable
In tier 11 we lost three great raiders because they didn’t feel we were progressing fast enough.  Other people stopped raiding because of the need to do things in real life.  An Officer left because they felt people should be putting more effort into getting ready to raid.

Losing a big part of your roster will have an impact and the bigger it is, the worse that impact will be.  Three people out of ten was painful, but it could have been worse.  We were actually looking at a second group because we had so many raiders and replaced all three people very quickly.  Losing 14 raiders in a 25 man raiding guild (though I am assuming the roster was more than 25 people) like Matticus did recently.

If you are going to run a guild you have to accept that your roster will change and adapt to that.  You have to not take it personally.  You have to have strategies in place to move on.  No one thought our progress would stop because they left, though we knew it would slow down while new players learned the fights.  No one player is so important that the guild cannot survive without them.  If you can say this about your guild, your guild is robust and healthy.  There are key people in it who we would miss terribly.  But it doesn’t collapse just because someone stops raiding.

How not to look at changing rosters
There was a post by a blogger called Wugan that talked about applying Restricted Free Agency to raids.  Basically, WoW players would be ‘contracted’ into a raid team and could not join another team for a set time period unless their Raid Leader chose to let them leave.  Wugan accepts this would not force people to actually raid, or stop them changing to alts, but feels this would reduce the incidence of people leaving a guild for greener pastures.  It wouldn’t.  I don’t believe for one second this would make the life of Raid Leaders easier.  Think about why people leave a raiding team and how Restricted Free Agency would affect them:

Real life issues – RFA would have no effect because those issues are rarely a choice.  No reasonable person is going to keep raiding rather than go to work, or spend more time with their children.  Major personality clashes – say RFA meant people involved in such a clash did stay (and I find this questionable) – would you really want them to?  All this would do is put strain on your raiding team.  Lack of gear – in every case where someone has left a raid team because of this the raid team was better off without them.  Unless the loot policy was genuinely unfair in which case making them stay is the act of a completely selfish individual.  Either way, one party is definitely wrong and RFA would not be effective or fair.

And finally, lack of progress – this is the one that I think Wugan was talking about, however.  People leave because they think the grass will be greener elsewhere.  They think progress will be faster.  This is why Dreamstate lost three raiders and probably a part of why Conquest lost 14.  Note that Dreamstate has far slower progression than Conquest at this point in Firelands for all sorts of reasons.  So whatever your progress is, unless you’ve already downed Heroic Ragnaros someone is going to be unhappy with it.

So wouldn’t RFA be a good thing here? Would the player find they could get their progress in situ and have no need to look elsewhere? No.  No matter how much the guild progressed after that point, the individual’s would always have felt they could have progressed more elsewhere.  Instead of dealing with recruiting a new and enthusiastic player who wanted to raid, the Raid Leader would instead spend their time dealing the mass of bad feeling generated by being forced to stay which would gradually poison the entire team.

The individual leaving the guild would feel they are justified in leaving no matter what the reason.  The player leaving for greener pastures feels they deserve those pastures, likely because they are better than the other raiders in the team because they produce more dps or fill a valuable role like a healer.  Wugan the Raid Leader might disagree.  So might Akandra the Officer or Matticus the Guild Master.  But none of that impacts on the viewpoint of the individual.

This is why you should embrace changing rosters.  Because if a person feels so strongly that they don’t want to be in your guild that they are able to type /gquit you are always better off without them. 

I am not encouraging people to leave a guild.  Far from it.  If you are unhappy about an aspect of the guild try and talk to someone about it.  Talk to an Officer and listen to the alternative point of view.  I mean really listen.  People don’t make decisions for no reason.  If you can’t accept that the raid leadership will make decisions you disagree with, then you need to go make your own guild, because no raid team will always do things the way you want them done.

And one thing to note for the people who leave.  The grass is rarely greener.  I will say that the three raiders who left Dreamstate for greener pastures did not find them.  And the 14 who left Conquest probably won’t either.  All they will find is that Matticus dealt with a lot of headaches they didn’t even know existed!    Probably the only case where you will be happier is if you make a radical change in your raiding focus i.e. go from casual to hardcore or hardcore to casual (I actually think those words are hopelessly inadequate to define raiding teams these days, but they will do).  RFA wouldn’t be useful for these players either, because if you want to make that change in focus you are never going to be happy staying where you are and forcing people to stay would just build up that resentment again.

The silver lining
There are positives you can take out of accepting ever changing rosters.

Firstly, those people who leave because the guild isn’t giving them what they want are not a loss to the guild as long as you are running the guild to the ideals you originally set out.  We accept that maybe some of our raiders aren’t going to make us the top guild on the server.  We accept that people in our guild might not cap their Valor Points every week because they have families, jobs and other real life issues to deal with.  We would rather have fun in a raid than have miserable raids with highly skilled players who have bad attitudes.  If you have players who don’t like that and want the guild to change, then its a good thing when they leave because all that does is make people miserable.  The Officers get tired of listening to ‘the hardcore progression player who constantly moans’ because thats not the kind of player the guild is set up to embrace.  If it was a hardcore guild, the Officers would equally get fed up with ‘the nice player who is a bit supbar’.  And no guild likes ‘the jerk’, ‘the time waster’ or ‘the loot whore’.  I like my guild and the people in it, but when those people who left are clearly looking for something the guild was never intended to provide, I can’t help but feel they are better off leaving because its the tensions in expectations that are the biggest problem most guilds face.

Secondly, you get to meet new people and make new friends.  And that is always something worth doing.  Its the reason I like MMO’s above any other genre.  I know people through WoW that I have been friends with for years now, and I make new friends constantly.

Embrace your changing rosters.  They will make your guild a better place to be.

A Change is as Good as a Break

Cataclysm Burnout.  The firey expansion has unleashed a wave of death not just on Azeroth but on its inhabitants.  Many people are quitting the game.  Its possible that its not more people quitting, just people quitting more visibly of course, but there are a number of long term players who are struggling to find the fun in Cataclysm.  Most have one or two particular niggles they can place a finger on and a whole bunch they can’t.

Thats not my Retribution Paladin, its rotation is too Rogue-like
Several classes in Cataclysm have changed beyond recognition.  Retribution paladins are one.  Restoration druids are another.  Arcane mages are still sad to see their spec not working in raids, and have to choose either Frost or Fire.  Hunters have a whole new resource system.  Death Knights have only one tanking tree.  There are probably more.  The difficulty here is that players who have loved their class for a long time aren’t enjoying it any more.

I’ll talk about retribution, because thats what I know.  Retribution has changed beyond all recognition and is now one of the most complex rotations in the game, right up there with feral druids.  Mostly because retribution paladins are feral druids.  With sparkles.  The rotation is similar in many ways – the use of combo points, fillers and finishers, the need to maintain a damage buff using the same resources as your damage abilities.  Its done a little differently, but not so much that levelling my feral druid doesn’t give me an eerie sense of deja vu.

So whats wrong with that?  Nothing really.  But its so very different from what came before.  Retribution needed to be made more complex as a rotation, but I can’t help feeling short changed by the Rogueification of my paladin.  Its not even that I don’t like the rotation.  I enjoy playing it.  Its the same feeling I had about priests at the end of TBC when I decided my paladin would be my main but for the opposite reason.  I left my priest because there were basically no changes to the class and I felt I didn’t want to keep hitting the same buttons for another couple of years.  I felt short changed by the expansion.  I feel that again with retribution, despite the fact that they did what I wanted.  They made the rotation more complex.  They balanced us in PvE and PvP.  But they did it using combo-points with sparkles and that was just lazy.

For many paladins, it was just too much.  They don’t like the new retribution (check out Unholy DKs for a simple but fun rotation these days).

Changing mains
When I decided to change from my paladin to my priest, the feeling of having been short changed definitely contributed, but I never would have made the change for that reason alone.  I started on my priest because that was what the guild needed, and found I enjoyed healing and particularly enjoyed the priest class again.  Wrath broke healing, Cataclysm fixed it.  I know some people who disagree with that, but I think they got it pretty much right.  I always felt the mana change in healing had not been good for the game – it changed the game into one of ‘who has fast enough reactions’ instead of ‘who can make smart choices’.  That one change affected raids far more than I think the developers anticipated.

As a quick note, people ask me why I didn’t go healing on my paladin.  The answer is that my paladin isn’t my priest.  When I heal, its always been with my priest.  If I try to heal on other classes all I can think is ‘Prayer of Healing would be better here’ or ‘I miss Binding Heal’.  I got used to the priest toolbox and I prefer it to any other class I’ve tried to heal on.  And I’ve played Akandra so long I know where all the spells go.  I’m pretty sure my buttons are in much the same place they were in TBC because if I put them anywhere else I end up using the wrong ones.    The priest class is similar to the one I left, but better with changes that fit in well with the class.

Where was I?  Oh yes, so I changed my main to fit in better with what the guild needed and it was a possibility for me because they fixed healing and tarted up the priest class nicely.  It gave me a better feeling than my short changed paladin.

Breaking up is hard to do
Its hard to change your main.  Very hard.  Especially if your an achievement hunter.  I remember struggling over whether to change to Morrighan and I struggled over whether to change to Akandra again.  But sometimes, change is the best thing.

I’ve mentioned that I didn’t change class because I disliked retribution particularly, but if you really do dislike it, change is the way to go.  I mentioned a few classes above because I know that many players are unhappy with those classes.  You can see it every day.  Those changes have taken the class they have played, in many cases since Vanilla, and made it so different they feel lost.  I talked about having kept my healing buttons in the same place for years on Akandra.  Well on Morrighan my buttons all had to change drastically because only a couple of them are used in the same way any more.  Theres nothing wrong with the classes (except for arcane mages) – they just aren’t the same.  For some players, these changes are too much and they are losing the fun in WoW.  I know a few people who are struggling with this right now.  At first they found it hard to put their finger on what exactly was wrong, but in most cases they just don’t like the way their class has changed so drastically.

The solution is to make a change.   If you’ve fallen out of love with your retribution paladin, then you should stop playing it and try to find something you do enjoy.

How to change your main character/role
Theres a lot to consider when making this change.  If you raid and want to remain in the same group, you need to consider the requirements of your raiding team as well as your own sense of fun.  You need to think about whether you are changing your role, your character or both.  You need to think about the transition period and if you want to try out your new choice.

Firstly you need to decide are you making the change just for you, or are you willing to be flexible to fit in with the raid group you are a part of?  If you want to keep raiding you firstly need to look and see what your raid group needs.  Have a chat with your officers to see what you can and can’t change to within the group.  If the group has too many mages, they aren’t going to want another one.  If melee is full, you will need to look at the other roles.  If theres a shortage of healers, would you consider healing?  Are there any other players who would like to change role also?  If your mage wants to heal and you want to dps then theres a solution.  It might be that the guild can’t accomodate you right now because what you want to do is oversubscribed – in that case if you are willing to wait have them put you on a ‘waiting list’ where you get the next available slot.  This also gives them time to recruit and can be a good way to make a change.

I mentioned roles there, because your second consideration is do you want to change role? Either on your current character or with another character? I mentioned my reasons for changing both role and character above, but for many people who are very attached to one character changing role can be a solution. Don’t like druid healing? Go boomkin.  Thats harder if your a hunter, for example, but its a consideration for hybrids.

Once you’ve made the decision to make the change, you also need to think about the process.  Is your new character ready for what you want to do with it?  If not you need to get it ready.  If you want to go melee but that will leave your guild short on healers, then I would suggest a transition period during which you heal when needed until a replacement is found.  Theres no point changing your character only to be unable to raid on it because there aren’t enough healers any more.  Discuss with your guild if you could ‘try’ your new main in a raiding environment to see what you really think about it if you aren’t sure.  This works fine as long as you explain to the team why those alts are suddenly raiding.

One of the biggest reasons people struggle to change mains is because of the achievements they have on their main.  But this can actually be a reason to change!  If you already have over 9000 achievement points, then a new main will give you something to do.  If you are an achievement hunter, this is obviously something you enjoy, so embrace the change to start again.  Set yourself some time to gather achievements/titles/pets/mounts on your new main.  See if people will come with you for old content for guild achievements.  Farm the new quest achievements in the new levelling zones allowing you to see all the new content.

What you should not do is just ignore your feelings about your class and hope they will go away.  They won’t unless your chosen class/spec is broken right now.  And most class/spec combinations are viable at the moment.  Even those that are broken may take a long time to fix.  If you think your class/spec is not viable at the moment make sure you read up on whether Blizzard thinks its broken.  If Blizzard don’t think its broken, then they won’t be changing it.  Blizzard have acknowledged the problems with an arcane mage, but they aren’t going to roll back the changes to retribution.  You can see all of the hate posts you want about new ret – its here to stay.

These are just some observations based on people I see playing the game at the moment.  Some of these I’ve talked to about their feelings, some not.  But its clear in every raid when people are feeling this way.  The people who have made the change are a lot more positive in those raids than those that haven’t.  They enjoy them more, they are better at raiding, they are enjoying the game.  So think carefully and if the drastic changes to your class are why you don’t enjoy WoW any more, then think about whether its time for a change.  Your new main could make the game fresh for you all over again.

LFD: Guild vs PuG

So today we woke up to this gem:

In patch 4.1 we’ll be introducing Dungeon Finder: Call to Arms, a new system intended to lower queue times. Call to Arms will automatically detect which class role is currently the least represented in the queue, and offer them additional rewards for entering the Dungeon Finder queue and completing a random level-85 Heroic dungeon.

Any time the Dungeon Finder queue is longer than a few minutes for level-85 Heroics, the Call to Arms system kicks in and determines which role is the least represented. In the case of tanking being the least represented role, the “Call to Arms: Tanks” icon will display in the Dungeon Finder UI menu where class roles are selected, and will also display on the UI when the queue pops and you are selected to enter a dungeon. Regardless of your role, you’ll always be able to see which role currently has been Called to Arms, if any.

Call to Arms is meant to lower wait times by offering additional rewards for queuing as the currently least represented role. To be eligible for the additional rewards you must solo queue for a random level-85 Heroic in the role that is currently being Called to Arms, and complete the dungeon by killing the final boss. Every time you hit these requirements (there is no daily limit) you’ll receive a goodie bag that will contain some gold, a chance at a rare gem, a chance at a flask/elixir (determined by spec), a good chance of receiving a non-combat pet (including cross faction pets), and a very rare chance at receiving a mount. The pets offered come from a wide variety of sources, and include companions like the Razzashi Hatchling, Cockatiel, and Tiny Sporebat, but the mounts are those specifically only available through dungeons (not raids), like the Reins of the Raven Lord from Sethekk Halls, Swift White Hawkstrider from Magister’s Terrace, and Deathcharger’s Reins from Stratholme.

This system is meant to address the unacceptable queue times currently being experienced by those that queue for the DPS role at max level. The long queue times are, of course, caused by a very simple lack of representation in the Dungeon Finder by tanks, and to some extent healers. We don’t feel the tanking and healing roles have any inherent issues that are causing the representation disparity, except that fulfilling them carries more responsibility. Understandably, players prefer to take on that responsibility in more organized situations than what the Dungeon Finder offers, but perhaps we can bribe them a little. While this system gives tanks and healers something extra, the incentive is being provided so that we can help players in the DPS role get into more dungeons, get better gear, and continue progressing.

While the gold, gems, flasks, and elixirs are OK incentives, we knew we needed something more substantial. We had briefly considered Valor Points and epics, but decided that wouldn’t be working toward the goal of helping DPS players progress, and ultimately wouldn’t keep tanks and healers in the Dungeon Finder system for very long. We settled on pets and dungeon-found mounts as they’re cosmetic/achievement items that players tend to try to get on their own, so why not change that up and offer them a chance to get some of those elusive pets and mounts in a way that also helps other players? Even if they don’t get a pet or mount, or get one they already have, the gold and other goodies still feel rewarding enough that it won’t feel like a waste of effort.

We think it’s a pretty solid incentive to get tanks and healers queuing, give max-level players another way to collect the pets and mounts they so desire, and above all, to improve wait times for DPS players sitting in queues. In the case of lower level dungeons, it’s actually not uncommon for DPS to be the least represented role, and so if this new system works out and we’re pleased with the results, we may consider applying this same mechanic to lower level dungeons as well.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Would the possibility of pets and mounts cause you to not do a run with your guild (since Call to Arms only works if you solo queue)?
  • Do we think this will see a sudden rush of undergeared and inexperienced tanks and healers trying to cash in on this?
  • If this had been posted on April Fool’s day, would you have thought it was a joke.

My first thought was ‘yes those queue times need to go down’.  But then I realised this was yet ANOTHER way for the LFD to penalise people for running with their guild.  I’m lucky as my guild is mostly full of generous souls who help each other and who like to do guild runs.  But imagine if your not in a guild like Dreamstate?  In fact it may lengthen queues because all the DPS who were in guild runs will now get stuck in the queue too as their tanks and healers will want to queue on their own.

Enough with the complaining – what do Blizzard do about it?
Actually I have a solution!  You need to match this change with a change that rewards people for running with their guild.  Where a guild gets a full five people, they should have a reward too.  You could make it quite minimal.  I would suggest a random player out of the five gets the same bag with the rewards in it.  This should tip the balance back toward all-guild runs and encourage tanks and healers to run more than their minimum number of runs.  Even if you no longer get Valor Points, you still have a chance at the bag.

The ups and downs of the 4.1 announcement

Well MMO Champion has some new information up and I’m pretty excited I must say.

Zul’Gurub and Zul’Aman are back
Both in heroic-5 man form.  The trend started with Deadmines and Shadowfang Keep looks set to continue in that neither dungeon will have a normal mode.  Both will drop epic 353 level gear.  And rare mounts, of course.  I am glad these are heroics and not raids.

Zul’Aman will be the first time one of the areas I have ‘done’ is reinvented within the game.  I never did Naxxramas the first time around, nor ZG.  So Zul’Aman will be my first experience with seeing content I loved reinvented.  I had been in Deadmines and Shadowfang Keep, but low level dungeons never inspire the kind of regular visits a raid does.  I’m interested to see how I will feel about it once its here.  I liked ZA as a raid the first time around.  It provided a good amount of challenge – when it first came out it was hard, as you farmed gear it got easier.  I never managed the timed run, but I did clear it.

Moar pets
There are achievements for 100 and 125 in game pets.  I have the current 75 pet achievement and I’ll be looking to see what I need to add to get to 100 and 125 respectively.  A great excuse to buy that mini Ragnaros pet I couldn’t justify to myself before when I purchased the Moonkin Hatchling.  The Moonkin Hatchling being justified as follows:

  1. Mini moonkin
  2. Mini moonkin … dancing
  3. I’m pregnant and I want it (I was 8.5 months at the time and my husband wisely agreed with anything I might ever say)

Flavour items and heirlooms
There seem to be some other new odd things.  I was quite interested by:

War Party Hitching Post
Binds when picked up
Use: Right Click to build a War Party Hitching Post.
Up to 25 party or raid members may use the post to summon a Hitch Horse mount. (30 Min Cooldown)

Not sure what thats about yet.  And also this:

Renowned Guild Tabard
Binds to account
Tabard
Equip: You champion the causes of your guild. All guild reputation gains are increased by 100%.

Since this item is BoA I assume the point is to allow your alts to gain guild reputation faster.  I like this idea.

Word of Glory Nerf
Obviously I’m not excited about the addition of a 20s cooldown to Word of Glory for Ret and Prot.  But I can’t bring myself to feel its unjustified.  When the 4.0.6 changes came in WoG became overpowered (if it wasn’t before).  Sure my Holy Power ramps up to three slower now, but the disco lights come on waaaay more often.  And every time the disco lights come on, I can use them to heal my arena team.  Word of Glory isn’t a huge heal, but in arena it can keep your teammates alive just long enough.  Especially if you can hit it several times in a row which is entirely possible when my disco lights come on several times in a row.  Blizzards intention was never that I could heal my teammates up to full faster than a healer and at will without using any mana, I’m sure.

LFG … where G stands for guild
Its a good idea.  My first thought on reading the blue post was ‘hmmm what a good idea’.  The forums are a lousy place to recruit in my opinion.

My first thought on seeing the window that MMO Champion have pulled out of the data files?  Not so good.  And I can clearly state why.  Basically you get to describe what you are looking for in three ways:

  1. Guild Playstyle: tick one of Casual, Moderate, Hardcore.
  2. Availability: Weekends, Weekdays.
  3. Role: Healer, Tank, DPS.

Now 2 and 3 are reasonable but suffer from a lack of depth.  Availability could be useful if it had all the days of the week on it.  As it stands it suffers from bad question design, in that people can answer both yes and no to each option.  I might be available Sunday but not Saturday.  So what do I tick for weekends?  I’m not generally one to criticise Blizzard because generally I understand the difference between me not liking something and it being bad.  But that kind of question design is just LAZY.

Role also lacks depth.  No matter how many times Blizzard say ‘bring the player, not the class’ its not entirely true.  Where it fails is where you have too many of one class.  Even if (and I don’t believe this) you accept that healers and tanks are interchangable (actually I think it doesn’t matter which classes you have as long as you have some variety for the most part – if all your healers are the same class then it tends to go badly) then the ‘DPS’ option fails.  Blizzard have NOT designed a game where an all melee team is EVER viable.  Therefore ‘DPS’ is flawed.  Personally I think that option should list classes and specs.  Then a hardcore guild can accept only a fire mage because their dps is like way better and a more moderate guild can accept a mage because it already has 5 hunters wanting slots in its 10 man team and another really wouldn’t be useful.

But the biggest bad on this screen is definitely point 1.  Casual, Moderate or Hardcore what?  Basically Blizzard are assuming there are three types of guild – Casual ‘we don’t organise anything’ guilds, Moderate Raiding Guilds and Hardcore Raiding Guilds.  What about PvP guilds?  How do I apply for guilds that are only looking for PvP players because thats all I’m interested in?  I know these died a complete death in WotLK (or they did on my server) but in Cataclysm with Rated BGs they’ve made a huge come back.  Also, please define Casual/Moderate/Hardcore?  Personally I would describe Dreamstate as a Moderate Raiding Guild.  But that all depends on your interpretation of those terms.  We could easily be described as Casual because of our very relaxed attitude.  On the other hand there are people who consider any guild that uses applications and asks people to flask, watch tactics, etc. as Hardcore.  It all depends how you interpret those things.  In reality most guilds will call themselves Moderate.  Going back to survey design you should always have an even number of options in any scale.  If you have an odd number, people will pick the middle one.  So guilds who raid 5 nights a week with strict attendance requirements (I would call these Hardcore, but they would look at the likes of Ensidia and think they are not as Hardcore as them) and guilds who just raid randomly without planning (after all there are guilds that don’t raid at all and they are not as Casual as them) will describe themselves as Moderate.

From a recruitment point of view it would be more useful to have the following options:

  1. Play type: Raiding 10 man, Raiding 25 man, PvP, General content (where you can choose more than one option)
  2. Availability: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, No regular times
  3. Class & Spec

It will be interesting to see what the guild can post.

Now thats what I call Cataclysm news

So Blizzard have released some major information about raids in Cataclysm.  I have to say, I hadn’t been excited about Cataclysm until now.  You may have noticed I didn’t comment on the Paladin Preview.  If I had, it would have looked like this:

“How to Fail at Paladin Previews
This basically what we know about end game retribution paladins from the preview and the Twitter chat:

  • Crusader Strike will be modified somehow
  • We’re going to have more ‘risk’
  • We’re going to use Divine Storm less
  • We’re going to get another boring cooldown that increases our damage that we will save to pop with Heroism and Wings and requires us to do nothing at all
  • We’re going to get an off the GCD interrupt

The last point is good.  The other points are ‘meh’.  I’d rather not have the preview than have this.”

So needless to say I am glad to receive some REAL news about Cataclysm that excites me.  That news is the changes to raiding.

  • 10 and 25 man will share the same lockout and the same loot.  25 man will drop more loot and give a few more points under the new system.

Great.  I’m in a 10 man guild.  I was doing a happy dance last night.  I’m far from the only person who has thought this was the solution, but I did think it was the solution.

What does this mean for 10 man guilds?
It means no longer being forced to do 25 mans to gain access to loot.  We have a lot of Friend rank players who PuG 25 mans, so we couldn’t keep our 10 man strict rating.  So we run 25 man once a week to improve our gear.  We’ve done 5 bosses.  I actually will kind of miss it, but the fact is this is a rare arrangement within a guild.  From now on we will have access to the same loot and the same challenges as everyone else.  I, for one, am happy with this.  I don’t think you’ll find a 10 man guild that isn’t.

I also feel this will let us have more fun.  With less need to repeat content (my pet hate) I can see the opportunity to do more with alts and engage in some other things like the new Rated Battlegrounds which sound fun.

What does it mean for 25 man guilds?
For 25 man guilds, it means not being forced to run 10 mans.  When I was raiding 25 I did so four nights a week.  I then was expected to spend another 1-2 nights a week clearing 10 man content for the extra gear and badges.  I hated doing that.  It sucked a lot of the enjoyment out of the game for me to be forced to raid the same content more than once a week.  25 man players will be freed up to have more fun!

On the other hand, several motivations will be missing.  No better gear.  No unique achievements.  So the question on everyones lips is why raid 25 man?  Stripped down to basics, 25 man will offer a different raiding experience.  In some ways its harder – coordinating 25 people is more complex.  But even in WotLK, in some ways its easier.  Its more forgiving.  When we do 25 man we take guild Friends along.  Even if they do 2k dps.  Its not stopped us killing the first 5 bosses and we’ll probably take out the next one too – we were close.  If a couple of players die, its not a wipe on normal modes most of the time.  It is good to spend time with all of your guild, something we will lose in Cataclysm in my guild unless we come up with a different way of doing it.  And there will still be server firsts to get.

Some guilds will keep raiding 25 man.  Those guilds that lose a lot of players as the expansion comes (which does happen) will move to 10 mans.  Some of these will go back to 25 mans later, some won’t.  I think Cataclysm will see the 10 man guild become the default raiding guild.  Those 25 man guilds that remain should be solid.

I’m going to follow this up with another post about my guild.  Dreamstate does things a little differently and is managing to run a structure that kills many other guilds dead – that of two 10 man groups.  I think that in Cataclysm this set up will work particularly well – all the benefits of a large guild with 10 man raiding –  and I’ll tell you how we do it and how to make it work.

What else did they say?
There have been some other comments which sound interesting, but have,  I think, less impact:

  • 25 mans will still have a couple of advantages – slightly more points/loot for your effort.
  • There will be two tiers of points (Honour and Valour points) roughly echoing Triumph and Frost emblems today.  Points will be capped.  Valour points will also have a weekly cap on how many you can get to make them less grindy.  Two tiers of PvP points will work in a similar way. When a new tier/season starts  all of your existing Valour level points will become Honour level points and the requirements for the previous tier/season will be downgraded.
  • You might be able to change the 10/25 man setting on a per boss basis.

The points system is definitely simplified.  I think all the myraid names and types of currency were confusing – I have Emblems of Honour, Valour, Conquset, Triumph, Frost.  I have old Badges of Justice still.  Stonekeepers Shards and Wintergrasp something-or-others.  Until recently there were Battlground Emblems for each Battleground.  Theres Arena Points and Honour.  And gold.  No wonder people were confused!

Fires, Dreams and Nightmares

Its been a busy couple of days. The gear list posts are coming. In the mean time if you take a look at the gear list you will see I have already added some more items.

A Beacon Fire
As any blog reader cannot fail to have noticed, there is a new ‘thing’ in the blogging community – the blogging guild Single Abstract Noun run by Tamarind of Righteous Orbs. Its based on the Argent Dawn-EU server which is an RP server. I’ve got a few very low level alts kicking around on there. And now I have another one – Morrighann the Blood Elf Paladin. I’ll link her once shes high enough to even appear on the armory! From my brief time there last night it seems a very nice community. My time there is going to be a bit limited as I try to juggle it with work, life, Dreamstate and blogging, but I do want to make the effort to go over there. I think everyone has ‘the blogger they most want to meet’ over there too. For me its Larisa from the Pink Pigtail Inn who encouraged me to rant more early in my blogging days.

Nightmares
Tamarind has been through an experience recently I can sympathize with, which is being forced out of his guild due to his blog. I’ve been there. I blogged about something that I had found particularly offensive in the guild, and which the officers had failed to deal with. And that saw me kicked from the guild. I had never made my blog a secret, and I had blogged about similar things before. But this was just a step too far for the guild. (Don’t go looking for this post btw – I took it down after the server troll found it).  I’ve not really blogged or talked about this since, and I’m not sure I will more than this because I know my old guild is going through some tough times right now.

Tamarind said something that made me realize how unhappy I was in my previous guild. He talks about how his blog has/had become the reason he plays. The gaming supported the blogging rather than being a side interest. In my last days in my old guild the blog definitely meant more to me than playing the game. My unhappiness with some of the people, with the guild management, etc. had made the game a place where I was unhappy and my blog was an escape from that, back to the times when I enjoyed the game.

Now I might regret that more if it wasn’t for what happened afterwards. Some friends of mine, also unhappy with the direction the old guild was taking, formed Dreamstate. Dreamstate is a totally different place to be. Its friendly and fun. It’s a completely different experience to be in a guild like this. I have now reached the point where I play the game because I enjoy it again. I still enjoy blogging, but I also love raiding again.  The game, for me, is very much a social thing.

Dreams
On another note, last night we made our GM’s dreams come true. Or at least ended one of his nightmares! We downed Firefighter in Ulduar 10. We had been working on this a while back, but setting up the new guild got in the way. Last night we went back and down he went. Dreamstate now has several Algalon keys and will be taking out the last achievements needed for our Rusted Proto-Drakes (I Love the Smell of Saronite in the Morning, One Light in the Darkness).

Our last attempts on Firefighter had been so close. They literally gave our GM nightmares. Everyone was so glad when it went down last night. It was relatively easy – we do over gear the fight somewhat. This let us deal with the tricky stage 3 by zerging the head. I was on the adds (the only melee with one tank). The second tank and one ranged dealt with the bomb bots. Everyone else nuked the head.

I enjoy doing things like this, as they allow the two raid teams to come together and we had people from both teams and the Casual Raider rank (who aren’t assigned to a team as these are generally people who can’t raid as often). Thanks to all who came, especially the one member who didn’t really want to raid that night and came to help us out.

Retribution paladins in patch 3.3

So its here. Icecrown Citadel, the Fall of the Lich King. I have to say I have been looking forward to this patch more than any other. I am really enjoying the game right now. My new guild, Dreamstate, has a great atmosphere and has renewed my enthusiasm for raiding. Our raids so far (we are only a week old!) have been smooth. A whole bunch of us got Glory of the Hero this week and several more should get it over the next week or so.

What does a new guild do in patch 3.3?
Lots of things! This is the Dreamstate to do list:

  • Start ICC. There’s no reason for us to wait – we’re still busy recruiting to get a last couple of people for hard modes (what we really need right now is a shaman!) but we already have players to raid normal modes. That’s on for tomorrow.
  • Today, given the HIGH likelihood of random disconnects, server lag and getting stuck trying to do something that looked perfectly reasonable at the time (using vehicles on a ramp, trying to enter a raid), we’ve gone for TotC 10 farming and the new weekly raid!  A great deal of fun was had by all.
  • Help some of our new members get some lootz. We’ve been really lucky and a few old friends have come back to WoW to play with us. They are a bit behind on gear, but that’s something we can easily fix!
  • Get everyone Glory of the Hero.  Yes I know this isn’t part of the new patch, but many people helped me and now I shall help them!
  • Have fun!

That last part is the most important.

Ok. Enough with the rambling. About that gear list…?
Its in progress. I’ve not forgotten you! I’ll start with a series of slot posts and then update the whole shebang at the end. That way you’ll get something useful sooner rather than later. However, RL is fairly hectic at the moment. I anticipate having the big list completed before the new year, with the individual posts coming between now and then.

I’ll give you a few useful things now, that won’t appear in the later math (based on ‘received wisdom’ from the ret pala community:

  • 2P tier 10 = ~3% dps increase. Get it!
  • 4P tier 10 = ~5% dps increase and is likely to be part of BiS.
  • The new tier 10 libram becomes better than the tier 9 libram after 39 seconds. Given that the tier 9 libram only works with Seal of Vengeance, this leaves a small gap in which the tier 9 libram is still the best option.  Hang onto it and keep it in mind.

So has anything really changed for retribution this patch?

Tier Set Bonus Rotation Juggling
We’re now going to play a new game, called tier set bonus rotation juggling. Current thinking seems to be:

  • Anything before you get 2P tier 9:
    Hammer of Wrath > Crusader Strike > Judgement > Divine Storm > Consecration > Exorcism > Holy Wrath
  • Then, once you have 2P tier 9 (fairly easy from today onwards given that Emblems of Triumph will be so freely available) then Judgement moves all the way up the list to your first priority:
    Judgement > Hammer of Wrath > Crusader Strike > Divine Storm > Consecration > Exorcism > Holy Wrath
  • This is now complicated by the addition of tier 10 bonuses, specifically the 2P set bonus that supports Divine Storm. When you start running with 2P tier 9 and 2P tier 10 Divine Storm will move up your list, and you want to go for:
    Judgement > Divine Storm > Hammer of Wrath > Crusader Strike > Consecration > Exorcism > Holy Wrath
  • Then, to keep you on your toes, when you get 4P tier 10, you need to drop Judgement back down the list since you no longer have the extra boost to that from 2P tier 9. However, 4P tier 10 affects Judgements and Seals, so the whole thing gets jiggled around anyway, and you’ll end up with:
    Divine Storm > Crusader Strike > Judgement > Hammer of Wrath > Consecration > Exorcism > Holy Wrath

So count those set bonuses up and choose your best option.

Talent Specs
The other change you might need to think about is your build. Divine Sacrifice has been heavily nerfed. You now have the problem that to get a talent that looks even remotely like the DSac of old, you need to sacrifice DPS points somewhere. What I’ve read says NO! DSac is gone. So your utility choices are now Vindication, Improved Blessing of Might and Aura Mastery. AM is questionable. Since I didn’t have DSac anyway I will not be changing my build at this point. I’ll stick with Vindication and Imp BoM. If I find a fight where AM would help, I’ll spec into that (I had the same approach to DSac).

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